Lawmakers from across the state convene Monday to kick-off the 2013 legislative session. It’s an odd-numbered year, so officials are tackling mostly fiscal matters – including Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal to eliminate the income tax. He wants to make up the revenue by increasing the sales tax by 2.25 percent. The proposal has already met a litany of criticism.
Bob Mann – a political analyst and communications director for former Governor Kathleen Blanco – thinks the bill has slim chances. “It looks as if it’s not going to make it out of committee – at least not in its current form," Mann said.
Last session, Jindal passed education and pension overhauls without much debate in the legislature. After the session, the laws were overturned and are currently pending in state Supreme Court. "It exhausted the patience of a lot of legislators who had to go home and listen to complaints," Mann said.
Now lawmakers are more wary of what voters think. And polls show Jindal’s tax plan is unpopular.
Poll respondents also said they’re tired of budget cuts. The Fiscal Hawks, a group of economically conservative republicans, are proposing to restructure how the state’s budget is prioritized and get rid of the use of one-time funds – and stabilize midyear cuts caused by those funds not materializing.
“But inherent in that is also austerity," Mann said. "It doesn’t in a long-term fashion help the state’s fiscal situation.”
So what would?
“The seven billion dollars in exemptions," Mann suggested, "that we’re giving to various individuals and businesses and operations around the state."
The legislature has already made suggestions. "Now, not every dollar of that seven billion is waste and should be eliminated," Mann said, "but that’s seven billion in tax revenue.” A legislative study group called the Revenue Study Commission looked into which of those exemptions should go and how to improve the state’s handling of exemptions generally.